Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Basics of Christianity (Pt.6)

For the last two days we have been looking at Romans 12:6-8 where we find Paul’s list of spiritual gifts. If you remember, I said that spiritual gifts is one of the three basics that we need to constantly return to. The first two were prayer and Bible study.

Today, I want to focus on the last four gifts found in verse 8. Paul says, “he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness”“ (NKJV).

The word “exhorts” is the Greek word parakalo. It means “to comfort, help, advise, strengthen.” This is also a broad term but is one “which enables a believer to effectively call others to obey and follow God's truth (see note on v. 1). It may be used negatively to admonish and correct regarding sin (2 Tim. 4:2), or positively, to encourage, comfort, and strengthen struggling believers (cf. 2 Cor. 1:3-5; Heb. 10:24, 25)” (John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible).

The gift of exhorting or exhortation is the Spirit-given ability to “come alongside to help, to strengthen the weak, reassure the wavering, buttress the buffeted, steady the faltering, console the troubled, and encourage the halting” (Flynn).

The next gift listed in verse 8 is “Giving.” This is the Greek word metadidomi and it means to “super-give.” Jesus gives us some instruction on our motives in giving in Matthew 6:1-4 when He says, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.  2 "So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3 "But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

4 so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (NASB). In Proverbs 22:9 it says, “He who has a generous eye will be blessed, for he gives of his bread to the poor” (NKJV). This gift denotes the sacrificial sharing and giving of one's resources and self to meet the needs of others. The one who has this gift has the Spirit-given ability “to be sensitive to and to provide for the needs of the saints with great joy and generosity” (Swindoll).

Also included in verse 8 is the gift of “leading.” This word (proistemi) has the basic meaning of “standing before” and gives the idea of leadership. “In the New Testament it is never used of governmental rulers but of headship in the family (1 Tim. 3:4, 5, 12) and in the church (1 Tim. 5:17). In 1 Corinthians 12:28, Paul refers to the same gift by a different name, "administrations,” which means "to guide." In Acts 27:11 and Revelation 18:17, it is used of a pilot or helmsman, the person who steers, or leads, a ship. Although it is not limited to those offices, the gift of church leadership clearly belongs to elders, deacons, and deaconesses. It is significant that Paul makes no mention of leaders in his first letter to Corinth. Lack of a functioning leadership would help explain its serious moral and spiritual problems, which certainly would have been exacerbated by that deficiency. "Free-for-all" democracy amounts to anarchy and is disastrous in any society, including the church. The absence of leaders results in everyone doing what is "right in his own eyes," as the Israelites did under the judges (Judg. 17:6; 21:25; cf. Deut. 12:8)” (John MacArthur, Romans).

The gift of leading is the Spirit-given ability “to preside, govern, plan, organize, and administer by example and service in humility with wisdom, confidence, efficiency and ease” (Flynn).

The last gift is “showing mercy” (v.8). This is the Greek word eleon and it “carries the joint idea of actively demonstrating sympathy for someone else and of having the necessary resources to successfully comfort and strengthen that person” (MacArthur). This is one of the beatitudes Jesus mentions in Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy” (NKJV). James makes reference to it 2 times in his letter (James 2:13; 3:17). Probably the illustration that is most familiar is the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. The Greek word eleon, as seen in Luke 10 “embraces loving-kindness, though pity is included” (Kittel). Applying this to the church we would say that this is the Spirit-given ability “to sense needs and to manifest practical, compassionate, cheerful love toward suffering members of the Body of Christ” (Flynn). This is what is meant in Romans 12:14 where Paul says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”

All of these gifts listed in Romans 12:6-8 are in operation today and they are needed among God’s people. My prayer is that you will examine your heart and motive as you serve the body of Christ and never forget the basics!

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